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world aids day 2017

It’s mid-November as I write this article. An article that I shouldn’t have to write in the first place – but we’re at a point in our history where complacency seems to have become the norm.

As I’m sure we have all noticed, November is a month of remembrance. The red poppies that we pin to our lapels are probably the most immediately recognised symbols in British History – reflecting on the great men and women that have fought and died for us. Red is a solemn colour throughout November. A recurring motif echoed by a declaration of ‘lest we forget’.

The festive season is upon us, the 1st December is an occasion for solemnity that could, if we are not careful, slip through our fingers.

While some may find it crass that I would have the audacity to equate HIV and AIDS with the World Wars, I would like to use this platform to explain why.

HIV and AIDS is still very much present within our society. Since the first cases were recorded in the 1980s, approximately 35 million people have lost their lives to the disease - according to the World Health Organisation.

We are lucky in the Western World to be able to have access to various treatments. In other parts of the world - particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa where approximately one out of every twenty-five people still live with the disease, have not been so fortunate.

This is where my point about complacency rears its angry head, we are still not doing enough.

In the United Kingdom, people living with HIV and AIDS are subject to stigma and subjugation. They are more likely to be refused work, they are more likely to suffer from mental health issues and they are more likely to live in poverty.

The need to educate and inform to end the stigma and to prevent new cases is paramount. A lot of the work is left in the hands of all of the amazing organisations that offer free tests and advice all around the UK. The solution is clear, we need to pull together to stamp out the stigma that was created by the press and the government in the 1980s.

 AIDS Ad Campaign 1987 - Run by the UK Government at the time.

AIDS Ad Campaign 1987 - Run by the UK Government at the time.

 

When the epidemic first came to light, the LGBTQ+ community and charities such as the Terrence Higgins Trust, Stonewall and the National AIDS Trust were prevalent in spreading awareness and combatting HIV and AIDS.

Although, historically speaking, most of the awareness did paint HIV and AIDS as a predominantly gay problem – we now are more aware than ever that this is not the case. We are still not aware enough though, we need to push our government on including LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education in our schools to start making an impact on the next generation.

We also need to encourage the next generation of LGBTQ+ people to check their history. HIV and AIDS has done more to our communities than we can put into figures. Speak to the older generation of LGBTQ+ people and ask what their experience was like; meeting people before the power of the internet and the fear and loss that the disease brought with it.

If, like me, this is an issue that plays on your mind – as it should – then get involved; help end the stigma and get new cases of HIV to 0%.

By raising awareness and remembering our history we can continue to fight HIV and AIDS. For LGBTQ+ people there are still many battles to be fought, but we are on the verge of victory. I urge every venue, every reader, every ally to get involved, get donating and at the end of November replace your red poppy with a red ribbon to remind and educate. This war isn’t over just yet.

Educate, donate and find out facts here.

Author: Morgan Buswell